I recently had the opportunity to tour the facilities of The Technology House, one of four companies that are prototyping and testing the newest Carbon CLIP (Continuous Liquid Interface Production) printers. CLIP 3D printing is a new technology that is evolving quickly. It promises to increase speed, resolution, and strength of printed products.
The CLIP process more closely resembles extrusion than the layer by layer 3D “printing” process that most people are familiar with. A CLIP printer uses a well of photosensitive resin, an ultraviolet (UV) projector, and oxygen (as the catalyst) to cure the material. The build platform starts slightly submerged in resin. As the platform slowly rises from the well, the resin reacts to the UV light which hardens the material while the oxygen inhibits the process. As the parts build up, the UV light and oxygen are adjusted to continuously change the shape as the product rises from the well.
Benefits of CLIP over traditional 3D printing and manufacturing processes
This continuous production method creates products with outstanding resolution, mechanical properties, and surface finish in a single step without the finishing steps required with standard layer-by-layer 3D printers.
CLIP 3D printing is showing promise in a wide variety of industries for both prototyping and full product manufacturing. Automobile manufacturers are one industry hoping to use this innovation, which would allow a faster method of creating a wide variety of different functional prototypes.
A CLIP 3D printer can build multiple different complex shapes together on a single build tray. This will help manufacturers shorten their development cycles while producing higher quality prototypes. CLIP-produced parts are similar in strength to injection molded parts, but don’t require the expensive molds and tooling that injection molded parts require.
A final interesting benefit is the ability to print complex shapes without using support material to fill gaps. The CLIP technology has proven to be very capable when printing mesh geometries (as shown below) due to the lack of supports needed and the thin cross sections which are possible.
Applications for CLIP 3D printing
Some potential applications are really interesting. One example is car door interiors. Currently the automotive industry uses foams to provide support on door interiors. CLIP 3D printing technology may provide a new alternative in the form of lightweight printed rigid structures, which can be designed to flex and absorb impact in collisions.
Only time will tell what applications will come to light for this new technology, but the future is looking bright so far for CLIP printing. I would like to extend my thanks to The Technology House for spending time with me and allowing me to tour their facility.